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Ms. LANDRIEU. I thank the chairman and add my compliments to him for his extraordinary leadership over the last several months in managing this very important piece of legislation through the process, a major piece of legislation that garnered 60 votes on the floor of the Senate.
The Chair knows because he has worked on many pieces of legislation, even in his short time in the Senate, but his longer time in the House, how difficult that is, particularly on an issue such as this that has eluded our country time and time again. Even though great attempts were made by extraordinary Presidents and wonderful Congresses in the past, this victory has eluded them. But we are close to capturing it now.
I thank the chairman of the Finance Committee. He probably spent more time, except maybe for HARRY REID himself, on ushering us to this point. I was in many of those meetings, and his patience was inspirational, as was his steady hand when things got tough. I thank him, and I also thank the chairman of the Budget Committee. No one has a better command of this budget in this entire body than KENT CONRAD. He has spoken in some detail and depth about the significant cost reductions and deficit reductions that will occur because of our work.
I came down to speak specifically about the amendment just offered by the Senator from Arizona. I actually went to the desk to get a copy of it because I wanted to read it for myself. This amendment is a stunt. It doesn't deserve the time I am going to give to explain the portion of it that refers to Louisiana. The reason I say it is a stunt is because it is actually written for television or the Internet. It is not written for any serious debate. In my view, it is beneath the Senator from Arizona who at one time was a candidate for President. The reason I say it is a stunt is because the word ``sweetheart'' is actually written in this amendment.
Normally, the only time I see that word is when my husband sends me a dozen roses on Valentine's Day, which he does most years. But to actually draft an amendment like this that actually uses the words ``sweetheart deal'' is an insult to the people of our country, and I would expect more from him.
I have tried to explain this to him privately on any number of occasions. I have provided him and his staff with every document they have ever requested. I am here to say one more time, the people of Louisiana do not deserve the derision from him or from any member of the Republican team, my Republican allies, because of asking for a correction in a formula that would have been devastating to the State of Louisiana or to any State that experienced the kind of catastrophic disaster we did.
This amendment that I got on might have been unknown to Senator McCain, but it was not a secret. How would I know that? Because actually I called a press conference with the Governor of Louisiana, Republican Governor, and announced it. That is why I know it wasn't a secret. We didn't have one press conference together; we had three.
As I have explained to the Senator from Arizona, just because he didn't know about it doesn't mean it was a secret. There are lots of things that happen in Washington--it is a big place; it is a big country--that he doesn't know about. This is one of them.
There were three press conferences called, and our entire delegation wrote a letter, a public letter, which I have given to every reporter who has asked for it, asking for consideration for this.
No. 3, how would I know it is not a secret? Because my legislature, which is represented by 50 percent Republican and 50 percent Democrat, unanimously passed it in a public forum. So the people of Louisiana, whom I represent, believe me, are sick and tired of hearing their name dragged through the mud. You want to drag a name through the mud, drag mine. But leave the people I represent out of it.
When the health care debate came forward and we recognized, at the Governor's request--I ask for a minute more.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. When the health care debate started, our Governor recognized that without this change, the State of Louisiana would lose somewhere about $450 million because, under the formula that was calculated, which is done publicly, the Federal Government declared that the Louisiana per capita income had increased 40 percent. It has never happened in the history of the United States. No State in no year in no decade--even with the gold rush, even with discovering oil, even with the greatest inventions of the world--no State's income has ever gone up 40 percent. And ours did not. The people I represent are not richer because of Katrina; we are poorer.
I will not back up a minute to ask for help for them. All I have asked in this bill, and we have gotten, despite the effort on the other side to undo it, and we will not undo it--all we are asking for is to let us pay the same Medicaid match that we have paid for the last 10 years, as long as I know. Louisiana pays 30 cents; the Federal Government pays 70. Our people are covered.
I ask for 30 more seconds, and I promise I will end here. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking just to pay the same amount of Medicaid as we have paid for the last 10 years. It was not done secretly. It was not done behind closed doors. It was not done to buy my vote. My vote was given to this bill because this bill deserves it, because it is a very good piece of legislation.
I told the leader I would vote for it whether this was in it or not. I am tired, but I am not going to sit down and not defend the people of my State.
The other Members can speak about what they wanted. This is not a sweetheart deal. It is a stunt from a Senator I would expect more from.
I yield the floor.
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